What It Takes to Help Ecumenism Along
Interview With Father J. Puglisi, Minister General of Franciscans of the Atonement
VATICAN CITY, JAN. 25, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Father James Puglisi, director of Rome’s Pro Unione Center, recalls the words of his professor, Yves Congar, on ecumenism.
The famous theologian used to say: “We can pass through the door of ecumenism only on our knees.”
Thus, prayer is the condition for Christian unity, explains the priest, who is minister general of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement, in this interview with ZENIT…"
Q: Is there any particular sign to celebrate this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity with more optimism than ever?
Father Puglisi: Yes. I think that in many respects we can see more collaboration among Christians because of the world situation in which the churches live.
What Cardinal Kasper has called a “dialogue of life” is clearly seen as going forward as Christians to respond to situations such as the recent natural disaster in Southeast Asia, to the situation of Christians in Iraq, the Holy Land and places like Sudan.
These represent human needs that the Gospel calls us to witness to with charity. There has been a tremendous outpouring of charity, regardless of denomination or religion. This is how the spirit of the beatitudes counters the spirit of the world, as seen and understood in Johannine terms.
On the theological level we must admit that things are moving more slowly, and we might say cautiously.
We have arrived at a critical point in our discussions and dialogues where we need to stop and evaluate both from the point of view of theory – theological agreements – and practice – how these realities and agreements are being lived out in practice.
"… Père Congar always told us in his class that “We can pass through the door of ecumenism only on our knees.”
Immediately, the image of the door at the Basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls comes to mind, when three church leaders were on their knees, in supplication, knocking at the door/gate that is Christ. This, in fact, is the reason for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
**Q: From your particular point of view, why is there still hostility toward ecumenism?
Father Puglisi: The “hostility” that we observe is more like fear. What we are dealing with at this time is a request for systemic change, [a] conversion of churches and their structures including the Catholic Church. **
We know that historically the structures of the Church have evolved according to the needs, the challenge, that the world put to the Church which, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, had to respond to these in each generation. This is how the Church fulfilled its role in society…"
“…As long as we maintain a rigid division and separation – and we might say opposition – between clergy and laity, then the process of secularization will continue to progress rapidly in a world which is in rapid social and cultural change. The Gospel needs to be spoken to each generation, to each culture, in terms and with symbols that can articulate its very message to each culture for the life of the world…”